Two DLC Staff Receive Mental Health First Aid Training

June 10th, 2019

DLC’s Ariella VanHara and Jessica Liria were recently certified as MentaI Health First Aid Trainers, and here’s how they’re making a difference.

Ariella VanHara grew up watching her mom, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), help people in their time of need, and knew that’s what she wanted to do when she grew up.

“I love helping people and being able to make a difference in someone’s life,” says VanHara, Clinical Supervisor of Emergency Services at David Lawrence Center.

Jessica Liria studied Criminal Justice and Forensics in undergrad and graduate schools, where she focused on behavior analysis and psychology. This led to her pursuit of a career in mental health, with an interest in preventing individuals from developing a criminal history.

“I love the idea of giving those with a serious and persistent mental illness a second chance,” says Liria, Supervisor of Prevention Services at DLC. “So many individuals with mental illnesses fall into the cycle of arrests and incarceration. With proper treatment, that cycle could be broken.”

VanHara and Liria recently added another title to their work with DLC: Youth Mental Health First Aid Trainers. Both women attended a 5-day training in Nashville, TN, in March to become certified trainers.

“The idea behind this curriculum,” explains Liria, “is to instruct the general public on what to do if they encounter a young person exhibiting a mental health crisis. Much like Basic First Aid or CPR, it teaches individuals how to handle those situations.”

VanHara adds that Mental Health First Aid teaches the skills to recognize the signs and symptoms, and how to respond to them for someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis. “The role in Mental Health First Aid is not to solve the problem, but to learn what to look for and how to get them to the appropriate services.”

Liria has worked at DLC since March 2013, when she started as a Behavioral Health Technician on the crisis unit. She discovered that she likes teaching others, and has been involved in several kinds of training through the years. She says her new certification in Mental Health First Aid training “is incredibly rewarding. It was an opportunity to further my career, but being able to represent DLC is the real honor.”

VanHara, an LCSW, has worked in mental health for more than seven years, all with crisis mental health clients and those with substance use challenges. She says she has seen many clients “at their worst and you watch them progress to be successful in their ongoing treatment. To me, this is the best part about the work and building a rapport with the clients that come for help.”

For information about upcoming Mental Health First Aid training courses, please call 239-455-8500.

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